Paying for sexual services
It is a crime in Northern Ireland to pay for sex. This means it is illegal to pay or promise to pay someone for sex, either directly or through another person. Under the law, payment can mean money, goods or services.
Paying for sex
The sexual services which are illegal involve you being physically present with the person who is selling the sexual service.
If you are found guilty of paying for sex you could be made to pay a fine, or be sent to prison for up to a year, or in some cases both.
It is a much more serious offence to pay for sexual services from anyone under the age of 18. If the child is:
- under 13 the maximum penalty is life imprisonment
- under 16 the maximum sentence is 14 years
- under 18 but over 16 the maximum penalty is seven years
Find out more about the legislation on paying for sexual services.
It is not a crime to sell sexual services in Northern Ireland. It is also not a crime to loiter or solicit for the purposes of offering services as a prostitute in a street or public place.
It is however a crime to keep or manage a brothel or to control prostitution for profit. If this involves anyone under the age of 18 the penalties can be up to 14 years imprisonment.
Getting help and support
The Commercial Sex Worker Service, run by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, provides health care and support to sex workers.
If you’re worried about your sexual health, you can read information on places to get help and advice:
If think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) you can get tested at your nearest Genitourinary Medicine (GUM)clinic.
Find out what's available in your Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust area:
- Belfast HSC Trust - sexual health and HIV services
- Northern HSC Trust - sexual health service (GUM)
- South Eastern HSC Trust - sexual health service
- Southern HSC Trust - sexual health
- Western HSC Trust - sexual health services
If you are a victim of sexual exploitation, there are organisations that can help you.
If you are involved in prostitution and want to explore possible alternatives, you can contact Beyond Support, a free UK confidential support service.